March, 2015 Road Trip
Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Beechworth, Hay, Mildura,
Broken Hill, Tanunda, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Albury, Sydney.
4305 km door to door.
My wife and I have seen quite a lot of Asia so we thought it was about time that we saw some more of Australia.
We decided to visit Adelaide, which would also give us a chance to visit my wife’s cousin.
I planned the ‘Road Trip’, as it was now being called, to be basically anticlockwise – Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Mildura, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Beechworth, Yass and home – nine stops.
I checked each stop for local fairs, markets or festivals, partly for us to see and expereince, and depending on the size of the festival, could we obtain accommodation at the ‘right’ price. The one that caused me some concern was the Adelaide Festival, which is extremely popular, but not with me, because I was only interested in the nightly rate, and large festivals had a tendency to increase the nightly rates.
I worked out that if we left Sydney late February by the time we reached Adelaide the festival would be reaching the end, and perhaps the accommodation costs would not be too big of a consideration.
I contacted a B & B that looked attractive and asked for a booking. I was told that they were full until the 12th March, and they knew that other B & B were also full, if I wanted a similar standard as the one I’d picked. I knew we would be able to book hotels, but the price per night was more expensive than we were used to paying in Asia at five star resorts, so I balked at paying over the odds due to a festival. I had to re-think the basic plans to be in Adelaide no earlier than the 12th March.
Back to the drawing board and I came up with a cockeyed plan for ten stops and we would zig zag our way to Adelaide, and still arrive on the 12th as planned.
Our first stop would be Wagga Wagga, (NSW) and then Beechworth in northern Victoria. This zig would take us away from the main route to S. Australia, but we did wish to see the place, which is why it was at the end of our original plan. Now that it was near the beginning I had to find the best route from Beechworth to somewhere on the way to Mildura. I could have driven right through, but it was supposed to be a holiday and driving flat out for seven or eight hours was not attractive, plus I could be over tired and make a mistake. I was happy with a four hour drive so I researched the towns on the way to Mildura, which were between three and five hours drive from Beechworth. Eventually I found Hay a small town in southern NSW, and checked this place out for a night stop.
On checking various motels and B & Bs I came across ‘Interesting things to do in Hay’ on the Hay web site, so I clicked on this link and found the Dunera Museum!
In the mid 60’s I’d sailed in the Dunera as a cadet when she was a school ship. During the war she had been a troop ship, and in 1940 she was used to ship nearly 2000 German and Austrian Jewish internees to Australia.
Many of the internees had fled Nazi Germany to the UK in the late 1930’s. Unfortunately many German & Austrian people living in Britain at that time were considered a security risk, so they were rounded up and placed in camps. The plan was to send them to Canada, but this didn’t work out and they were sent in HMT Dunera to Australia. The guards on the ship, and some of the crew, were not all that sympathetic to the internees, and the voyage became infamous, and the internees became known as the Dunera Boys.
I don’t think there were any women in the group, because wives and children were considered a lower risk, and were kept in Britain.
Knowing the history of the Dunera Boys and having sailed in her twenty five years after the fateful voyage, I just had to stop in Hay to visit the museum.
Our next stop would be three nights in Mildura, on the Murray River, followed by Broken Hill for three nights, and then Tanunda in the Barossa Valley for two nights, which was about a ninety minute drive outside Adelaide. These two nights in the Barossa would be the last two nights of the Festival, which would allow us to move in to the B & B on Saturday 14th March.
We would be in Adelaide for four nights, the longest time at any of the stops, after which it would be Robe, two nights, Ballarat for one night, and finally Albury for a single night before the last six hours drive home.
Using the freeway the drive from Sydney to Wagga Wagga went well. We left home at 8.40 am, on a Sunday; the traffic was light, so we were able to make good time. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Bookham. The place was picked at random, because we didn’t know when we would stop or where. We felt peckish, so we stopped.
Bookham was ‘advertised’ as a rest stop and I thought it would be just a lay-by, but it was a small hamlet; very quiet with a small car park, picnic tables, a toilet block and a petrol station fifty metres from the parking area. Across the road was an old church with ‘character’.
The above is the main street of Bookham . . . the traffic on the freeway could just be heard.
We arrived at the motel in Wagga Wagga at 2.00 pm. The bush areas must have something in the water when towns are given the same name twice. Just on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga we passed through Gumly Gumly, and later in our road trip we stood on a lookout point called Mundi Mundi.
For all our accommodation I used Trip Advisor as a guide to the standard of service, and cleanliness. Our first stop being Wagga Wagga, was the test factor of previous visitors’ recommendations. I’d booked us in to the The Junction Motor Inn in Wagga Wagga, and I found that the web site was easy to use, and responses to my e-mails were fast.
Jill & Peter, the owners, were very friendly and helpful on our arrival advising us where to eat and how best to get in to the town centre and where to park.
Our accommodation was spotless and a good size, with plenty of parking right outside the door.
Because it was a Sunday the motel was very quiet – on arrival we were the only car in the car park area. Later, a number of others arrived or returned from days out sightseeing.
After we’d unpacked the necessities, we drove the short distance to the town centre. Like many country towns on a Sunday afternoon, it was QUIET! The only department store closed at 3.00 pm, ten minutes before our arrival. I hate shops, so how lucky can I get?
Sunday afternoon in Wagga Wagga
We walked the length of the centre and the one thing I noticed was that they had a beautiful memorial park for those who served and died in all wars. The roses, the fountain and the eternal flame made a big impression on me, particular for such a small town.
The Eternal Flame Garden
In memory of . . . .
Running alongside the garden area was the Murrumbidgee River, which snaked and turned across the country to beyond Hay and eventually in to the Murray River. The Murrumbidge River is 1488 km long, stretching from the head waters in the ACT (Australian Capital Territories) to the Murray River, which forms the border between NSW & Victoria. If I’d have realised this I might have considered ‘boating’ instead of ‘roading’ because our plans would take us from Wagga Wagga to Hay and on to Midura, all place connected by rivers.
During the afternoon we visited the local Club to check it out for our evening meal. The Club was a sporting club, but as I am not particularly sports minded I have no idea which sport the club followed. The system in Australia is that you can visit any club for drinks and a meal (you don’t have to be a member), as long as you are more than five kilometers away from your own home.
The restaurant looked fine, so we asked if we had to book for that evening, and the young lady that we spoke to told us that all should be OK if we arrived early, and that they started serving at six.
The club offered a courtesy coach to and from the club, and as we were not all that far from the club we booked the bus for a 6.00 pm pick up, from our motel. Using the bus would allow us to have a glass of wine with the meal and not worry about driving.
A few minutes after six the bus arrived and we boarded, only to find that there were quite a few people already on board. The larger than expected number of people impressed us, and confirmed that we had made the right choice for our meal, because it was obviously a very popular club.
We headed away from the club and I thought we must be picking up more people for the evening session. How wrong was I, the bus did a large circuit of the housing area dropping off the lunchtime members. My wife and I were the only passengers going to the club that evening!
On entering the restaurant about 6.30 pm we found that there were six or seven other people already eating, so we had a seating choice of between twenty and thirty tables!
Next stop Beechworth in Victoria.